Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans - Edward Eggleston

Some Boys who Became Authors

William Cullen Bryant was the first great poet in this country. He was a small man. When he was a baby, his head was too big for his body. His father used to send the baby to be dipped in a cold spring every day. The father thought that putting his head into cold water would keep it from growing.

Bry-ant knew his letters before he was a year and a half old. He began to write rhymes when he was a very little fellow. He wanted to be a poet. He used to pray that he might be a poet. His father printed some verses of his when he was only ten years old.

Bry-ant wrote many fine poems. Here are some lines of his about the bird we call a bobolink:—

"Rob-ert of Lin-coln is gayly dressed,

Wearing a bright black wedding coat,

White are his shoulders and white his crest.

Hear him call in his merry note:

Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,

Spink, spank, spink;

Look, what a nice new coat is mine,

Sure there was never a bird so fine.

Chee, chee, chee."

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

Hawthorne was one of our greatest writers of stories. He was a pretty boy with golden curls. He was fond of all the great poets, and he read Shakespeare and Milton and many other poets as soon as he was old enough to understand them.

Hawthorne grew up a very handsome young fellow. One day he was walking in the woods. He met an old gypsy woman. She had never seen anybody so fine-looking.

"Are you a man, or an angel?" she asked him.

Some of Hawthorne's best books are written for girls and boys. One of these is called "The Wonder Book." Another of his books for young people is "Tanglewood Tales."

Prescott wrote beautiful histories. When Prescott was a boy, a schoolmate threw a crust of bread at him. It hit him in the eye. He became almost blind.

He had to do his writing with a machine. This machine was made for the use of the blind. There were no typewriters in those days.

It was hard work to write history without good eyes. But Prescott did not give up. He had a man to read to him. It took him ten years to write his first book.

When Prescott had finished his book, he was afraid to print it. But his father said, "The man who writes a book, and is afraid to print it, is a coward."

Then Prescott printed his book. Everybody praised it. When you are older, you will like to read his histories.

Doctor Holmes, the poet, was a boy full of fancies. He lived in an old house. Soldiers had staid in the house at the time of the Revolution. The floor of one room was all battered by the butts of the soldiers' muskets.

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

Little Oliver Holmes used to think he could hear soldiers in the house. He thought he could hear their spurs rattling in the dark passages. Sometimes he thought he could hear their swords clanking.

The little boy was afraid of a sign that hung over the sidewalk. It was a great, big, wooden hand. It was the sign of a place where gloves were made. This big hand swung in the air. Little Oliver Holmes had to walk under it on his way to school. He thought the great fingers would grab him some day. Then he thought he would never get home again. He even thought that his other pair of shoes would be put away till his little brother grew big enough to wear them.

But the big wooden hand never caught him.

Here are some verses that Doctor Holmes wrote about a very old man:—

"My grand-mam-ma has said—

Poor old lady, she is dead

Long ago—

That he had a Roman nose,

And his cheek was like a rose

In the snow.

"But now his nose is thin,

And it rests upon his chin

Like a staff;

And a crook is in his back,

And a mel-an-chol-y crack

In his laugh.

"I know it is a sin

For me to sit and grin

At him here;

But the old three-cor-nered hat,

And the breeches, and all that,

Are so queer!

"And if I should live to be

The last leaf upon the tree

In the spring,

Let them smile, as I do now,

At the old for-sak-en bough

Where I cling."

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston